Peak Design has been making a name for itself for a while now, mainly in the world of photography gear. I count myself as an early fan, getting their Everyday Backpack a few years ago as a Kickstarter backer. (While this bag could be used for anything, it worked especially well as a camera bag.)

Now, Peak Design has fully crossed over into making general travel gear with their carry-on size 45-liter Travel Backpack.

I was slightly skeptical initially as I had read one or two critical reviews around the web, but having fully put it to the test on a recent trip to Italy, I’m not sure, frankly, what these people were smoking!

Look, this backpack is simply awesome. It may well be the best backpack I’ve reviewed.

As you can tell, this is going to be quite a gushing review — so let me quickly mention that I don’t do sponsored content and my opinions are entirely my own. I just happen to like this backpack a lot.

You can find out more about the Peak Design 45L on the official site, but if you want to know my thoughts, then read on.

Price $299

Pros

  • Incredible design, full of beautiful touches
  • Highly versatile (35L expands to 45L)
  • Great materials & holds its shape
  • High rain resistance with weather-sealed zippers

Cons

  • Removable sternup strap can be a little easy to lose (best kept stowed)

Watch my video review

Thoughtful design

The 45L Travel Backpack has a ton of clever features. It really pays off to watch some of Peak Design’s tutorial videos to understand everything it can do. Thanks to so many ingenious features, it’s the most versatile and usable backpack I know.

Using it also feels good, much like an Apple product (or just think of your own favourite brand). All the little touches — like the magnetic pouches, hidden straps, and clever storage spaces — create a totally fluid experience.

Something I appreciate about its design though is its restraint. Other backpacks I’ve tried in the ‘premium’ category, such as the Nomatic Travel Bag or the Tortuga Outbreaker, go a little overboard. They tack on too many features, use too heavy materials, or end up putting in so many compartments that they feel tight or cluttered.

Not so with the Peak Design backpack, where every feature is truly there for a reason. It manages to stay light, and despite including numerous storage spaces it maintains a very high degree of accessibility.

Despite its sturdy 400D nylon shell, which holds its shape when unloaded, this backpack weighs a very reasonable 2.05 kg (4.5 lb).

Carry-on size

The 45L Travel Backpack is fully carry-on size compliant, though with an asterisk.

By default it has a capacity of 35 liters, putting it well within any airline carry-on size limits. But if you need just a bit of extra space, you can expand it to 45L, truly making this an all-purpose travel bag.

When it’s expanded, some particularly stringent airlines may make a problem out of its size. This personally has not happened to me — and I’ve flown successfully with carry-on bags that are just a tad too big when fully loaded (such as the Tortuga Setout 45 or the Osprey Porter 46). Officially though, you’ll be slightly over the limit when fully expanded.

At 35L it’s a perfect weekender bag or ideal for a light packer. I like to keep it at this size for a trip of 7 days or less. For a longer backpacking trip, or digital nomading, or a long holiday, I would expand it to 45 liters. So long as you don’t overstuff it, you should be okay.

The accessories

I must confess that I’m normally not that into getting official accessories with a backpack. Usually, these are just overpriced items designed to ‘upsell’ you after you’ve added the backpack to your shopping cart. Why not just get some cheap packing cubes on Amazon, right?

In this case, though, I highly recommend getting the Peak Design accessories.

They truly let you get the most out of this backpack and use it as one integrated system. The toiletry bag, electronics pouch, and packing cubes are all just as thoughtfully designed and fit the backpack exactly.

Packing cubes: these are the nicest packing cubes I’ve used. Not too rigid. You can either use them as one big cube or divide the space into two. A mesh shows you what’s inside.

Toiletry bag: lots of little storage spaces, plus a pouch that closes by itself using hidden magnets. Awesome for keeping small stuff like Q-tips (cotton buds) or contact lenses. The toiletry bag fits exactly in the backpack’s front compartment.

Electronics pouch: again, loads of little storage spaces for cables, SD cards, etc. Amazing if you’re a digital nomad or bring many electronics like me.

Comfort

Despite most elements of the suspension system being fully stowable, I find this backpack remarkably comfortable to wear. The back padding is awesome and the two main straps are just perfect, only rarely making me feel like they’re cutting into my shoulders at all. The waist straps are stowable and are a little on the thin side, but they do the job just fine.

One flaw that I found when taking this bag on my first trip is the sternum strap. It is detachable on both sides, which is wonderful if you want to adjust it to your chest height. Unfortunately, this also makes it easy to come loose. When I retrieved it back from the luggage carousel at the airport for the first time, it came back to me sans sternum strap.

Granted, I should have probably carefully attached it on both sides, and not let it bungle from one end (oops, my bad). The strap was easily replaced for $10. But if you want to hold on to your adjustable sternum strap, it’s wise to attach it securely or to put it in a side pocket when checking-in.

Conclusion

If you’re a serious traveller looking for a serious backpack, then you should definitely check out Peak Design’s Travel Backpack. Simply put, I think it blows other premium backpacks out of the water — even the Minaals, Outbreakers, and Nomatics.

The materials used are amazing, the bag constantly surprises you with its convenient features, and it feels like a backpack that’s made to last.

The price tag of $299 (or up to $399 if you include all accessories) might not make this a backpack for everyone, but it’s an incredible investment if you travel regularly. (It comes with a guarantee for life.)

If you don’t have quite the budget for this backpack I can recommend the cheaper Tortuga Setout or Osprey Farpoint. But if you just want the very best, then you just can’t go wrong with the Peak Design Travel Backpack.

This post contains affiliate links that may earn me a small commission. This doesn’t affect the contents of the review. More on my policies here.